I was just thrown away in the dustbin, crumpled, empty, and discarded. Everybody is ignoring me. No one pays attention to me. But guess what? I don’t end here. I feel “poised at the edge of the unknown.” Little do you know that my journey forward will “diverge with outcomes” that will impact nothing less than the fate of this planet. I have come a long way, evolving from the refinery plant to the manufacturing line, to the store shelf of others like me, and finally to a garbage can.
But don’t worry, I have a longer way to go. I’m made from a material called plastic that will never biodegrade or break down into smaller pieces. In fact, I have the ability to last forever, and I’m still gonna be here even after all of you are gone.
I feel so powerful amongst mankind. Ever since I emerged from a refinery plant, with complex mixtures of thousands of compounds and “natural, organic materials” such as cellulose, coal, natural gas, I have been rated as one of the most toxic materials on this planet. It took almost 17 million barrels of oil and immense hard work to produce my family members. What did it take for you to be made?
I remember being put in huge dark cartons along with my 50 billion cousins. Every year, only 13 percent of us get recycled. We are everywhere — supermarkets, offices, airports — waiting to be picked up by someone to quench their thirst. We are all wrapped, shipped, bought, “opened, consumed and then unceremoniously discarded.” That’s quite an achievement for a water bottle!
Some of my skills are: threatening wildlife, poisoning the food chain, spoiling groundwater, and piling up the environment. Not only this, exposure to my chemicals can even cause cancer, “birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption,” and other illnesses. There’s so much that I can do that most of you don’t even know about.
I even contain Bisphenol A, or BPA, a chemical that disrupts “hormone functions” in humans. It’s not just my family of plastic water bottles, but also in my relatives including plastic plates and other containers that store food and beverages.
However, today many of my friends are made of a chemical called polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is regarded “safe for one-time use.” On the other hand, a material called diethylhexyl phthalate on my cap can leach chemicals in the water to a significant degree.
People know I’m a hazard, yet they continue to use me. I don’t know why humans just love me so much. I pity these fools for harming their health for their love of me.
Around 30 million tons of my family are discarded every year. Most of us are either burnt or end up in a landfill as litter where the huge dump of trash expands everyday. As I absorb the water-soluble compounds in other types of trash, I end up moving those toxic materials in groundwater, soil and streams which results in poisoned ecosystems and wildlife.
Some of my siblings have ended up in a river, or in an ocean, where animals try to eat them, and those poor creatures eventually die because of us. Often, my family is drawn towards the “massive vortex” where all the trash accumulates, a place known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The ocean’s currents are so strong that they have trapped many of my cousins and formed plastic debris. A few birds even get tangled in our plastic mess, or starve to death. Despite your efforts to conquer us, we are present everywhere. We are in your water, in your soil, in your food. We are taking over your bodies, too.
Unfortunately, one of the solutions left to save this planet is recycling me and giving me new life, which, of course, most humans are too lazy to do. It will take years to abate all of us. Everything suffers because of us: tourism, business, human health, animals, fish, birds — the list is endless. Some people even call me an environmental disaster, but they are helpless when it comes to taking charge to eradicate me.
Life without me is “possible, it’s just very hard.” Who am I kidding? It’s not possible. You were so obsessed with me that you tried all your tactics. But it’s not gonna make any difference. Not everybody will start using cloth bags and paper straws. Not everybody wants to start using eco-friendly reusable water bottles. Not everybody will bring their own containers to restaurants. Not everybody can drink freshly squeezed juice instead of bottled juice.
However, if humans really cared about these issues, they would take small steps to solve this problem. They would use their access to resources to start more initiatives and eradicate us. But they don’t. They don’t seem to care as much as they need to.
After all, if you had the ability to make me, you probably have the ability to eradicate me. It’s okay, you can go ahead and try. Whether you use me or not, it’s your choice. Whether you choose to change and reuse, reduce or recycle me, it’s not my concern. All I know is that I’m going to ruin your lives.
Navya Sethi is the opinions editor of The Woodstocker